Friday, September 19, 2014


Civic Skinny

Appel for Congress? Interim Regent Lang?

4/3/2013

KCCI’s Patrick Bell must have bored even himself during the 10 p.m. newscast on March 1. A Cityview reader reversed his DVR, froze the frame and shot this photo.

KCCI’s Patrick Bell must have bored even himself during the 10 p.m. newscast on March 1. A Cityview reader reversed his DVR, froze the frame and shot this photo.

Will Staci Appel become the first woman to represent Iowa in Congress? The former legislator tells Cityview she is “strongly considering” running for the seat now held by Republican Tom Latham. It would be an expensive run against a well-financed incumbent, and Appel says she is “working on a potential finance plan.”

Appel, who lives in Ackworth (population: 83) in Warren County, served in the Iowa Senate from 2007 through 2010, when she lost to arch-conservative Kent Sorenson by a hefty margin. If she decides to take on Latham, it’s unclear if she’d have a primary. Mike Sherzan, a Des Moines broker-dealer who had announced, dropped out of the race Monday afternoon, “due to personal health issues.” Appel probably would have beat him, anyway.

But beating Latham is another matter. The 10-term Republican overwhelmed Democratic Congressman Leonard Boswell when the two were thrown together in the new Third District last November. Latham, who moved into the district to take on Boswell, won by more than 30,000 votes, though the margin was probably padded by some Democrats and liberal independents who were pissed at the aging Boswell for not stepping aside to let Christie Vilsack have the nomination.

The third district, which includes Polk County and covers the southwest quarter of the state, is slightly Republican — with 165,595 registered Republican voters as of March 1, 159,575 registered Democrats and 157,163 registered independents. To win, a Democrat has to run very strong in Polk County, which Appel probably would do.

Martini Fest

If Appel runs and wins, she’ll be the first woman ever sent to Congress from Iowa. At least 16 have run since 1938, when Albia postmaster Ruth Hollingshead ran against Republican Karl LeCompte. Democrat Lynne Cutler of Waterloo came closest, getting 48.5 percent of the vote in her race against Cooper Evans in 1980. (As a Skinny reader noted last year, Hollingshead was a teacher in Mason City before she married and moved to Albia. One of her students was Meredith Willson. “I taught him math, not music,” Hollingshead told our Albia correspondent.)

The first woman elected to the House of Representatives was Jeanette Rankin of Montana. That was in 1916. Since then, there have been 362 elections in Iowa for the House of Representatives. The first woman to serve in the United States Senate was 87-year-old Rebecca Latimer Felton of Georgia. She was appointed in 1922 by the governor to fill a stub term. Since then, there have been 32 Senatorial elections in Iowa. Mississippi, Vermont and Delaware are the only other states that have never sent a woman to Washington. …

Let’s see if we have this right: Steve Leath, the president of Iowa State University who did the bidding for Regents Bruce Rastetter and Craig Lang in torpedoing the Harkin Institute of Public Policy at ISU, threw the two under the bus in an interview with The Des Moines Register last week. “The less Regents involvement, the better off we would have been,” he said. “Do I think the Regents micromanaged too much on the Harkin Institute? Yes,” he said. But, he said, it wasn’t just Lang and Rastetter. The only other Regent who seemed to be involved was Ruth Harkin, whom Leath criticized at least by implication.

This was in an interview in which he said, in the Register’s words, “there’s still hope that the Congressional papers of Sen. Tom Harkin will end up at the university.” He said: “I think we’re going through, I hope, what I would call a healing process — but I don’t know if that’s an accurate statement.”

So this is the strategy to woo back the institute: First, publicly blame your bosses for screwing up the Harkin deal. Second, publicly criticize by implication another of your bosses who happens to be the wife of the man whose papers you suddenly want. And third, say you still have hope you’ll get the papers? That doesn’t seem like a well-thought-out strategy. …

Meantime, it’s all but certain that after bungling several issues as Regents president Lang will not be confirmed for a second six-year term by the Iowa Senate this session. Gov. Terry Branstad then will have to make an interim appointment. Could he make Lang that interim Regent? The Iowa Code makes it clear that if a person is not confirmed, the governor can appoint that person on an interim basis for no more than 60 days. But other interim appointments are valid until the Iowa Senate next meets; the senate must act on those interim appointments within 30 days of convening.

So the question is: If Lang withdraws and thus isn’t defeated, could he be appointed on an interim basis for the full year. The answer to that appears to be “yes.” And the second question is: Would Branstad do that? And the third question is: Why? …

As Cityview has reported, lawyers for Iowa Public Radio contend IPR isn’t a government body and thus isn’t subject to the Iowa open meetings and open records laws. Now comes Nick Johnson, a University of Iowa law professor and former member of the Federal Communications Commission.

“If IPR is truly ‘not a government body’ and a part of neither the Regents nor the state schools,” he writes in a letter to the editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “there is, minimally, at least an ethical and moral issue as to whether the schools should continue to hold their valuable licenses to these ‘educational’ stations.”

Meantime, the Gazette seems to be the only media organization other than Cityview that thinks the IPR issue is newsworthy. The other day, the Cedar Rapids newspaper editorialized that “it only makes sense that any group that is largely public, doing public business, using public funds, should be an open book.”

And finally, there’s this from the “Iowa Public Radio Audit” item before the Board of Regents in April of 2010. “Iowa Public Radio, Inc. is governed by the State of Iowa — Board of Regents and the Station Licensees (Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa and State University of Iowa); therefore, we are considered a governmental entity for financial reporting purposes.”

But not — suddenly — subject to the Iowa sunshine laws.

You figure it out. CV

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